28 September 2020 – Roche Pays $448m to Buy Inflazome

The Big Ones

Congratulations to Mike Cavanagh at Comcast for taking up the reins of its ventures unit after Amy Banse’s decision to retire next year. Thanks goes to Banse for her support to the community over the past decade and glad she’s staying engaged through Comcast to deliver on sustainability, gender equality and mentorship.
My thanks to Ken Gatz, CEO at deal management software platform Proseeder, for running the past two days’ pitch events covering sustainability and mobility on September 22 and financial and deep technology yesterday. The GCV Connect powered by Proseeder platform reviewed the applications thanks to the expert corporate venturing judges and then showcased the finallists with the recordings edited and showreeled at the GCV Digital Forum next week, 29th.

Sweden-listed investment holding company Kinnevik’s history is one of pivots. From its initial switch from pulp and paper into telecoms and media in Sweden in the 1990s and then into online companies such as Avito, Rocket Internet and Zalando in the 2010s now comes the push into privately-held startups as it sells its $2bn stake in telecoms asset Tele2.

Exits

Roche has paid $448m to buy Inflazome, the Novartis-backed developer of treatments for chronic inflammatory conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hepatitis B, Crohn’s disease and many others. Inflazome was spun out of University of Queensland just four years ago and also commercialises research from Trinity College Dublin. Novartis had contributed to its two only rounds that brought in a total of just over $62m.

TriNetX had raised $102m in funding from investors including Merck & Co, Mitsui and Itochu before agreeing to a purchase by Carlyle.

You may have all but forgotten about WeWork, the beleaguered co-working space provider, and in a world struggling to keep a pandemic at bay, sharing an office with strangers is hardly appealing. Yet, Trustbridge seems confident there is money to be made still and has acquired a majority stake in WeWork China for… $200m. Not only had WeWork China raised $1bn from investors including SoftBank and its Vision Fund, but was also once valued at $5bn. A source told TechCrunch layoffs had already started and “many things” remained uncertain, so we’ll see how this one pans out. In any case, it’s hardly an exit to celebrate for the investors, but they were likely prepared for that already anyway.

Even if you don’t drive an electric car, you have likely come across the term range anxiety – the fear that the battery’s charge will not last all the way to the driver’s destination. It is often considered a significant barrier to large-scale adoption of EVs, so seeing ChargePoint – which operates an international charging network – agreeing to a reverse merger with SPAC Switchback Energy Acquisition can only be good news. The deal values ChargePoint at $2.4bn and will, once it closes in Q4, net the business $683m in fresh funding. That’s a smidgeon more than the $667m it had raised in equity financing from backers such as AEP, BMW, Chevron, Constellation Energy, Daimler, Siemens, The Hartford and Toyota.

Speaking of the transportation sector: Ninebot – best known for the Segway brand – is looking to go public in China through a $295m IPO on Shanghai’s Star Market. The Xiaomi and Intel-backed company’s move is intriguing not so much for the IPO’s target size (though that is notable, too) but because it’s the first company with a variable interest entities (VIE) structure that’s been approved to list using Chinese Depository Receipts. VIE is a framework that enables foreign investment in companies that are restricted from accepting overseas capital due to their sensitive nature. Typically, the structure is employed by China-based companies undertaking a listing elsewhere and up until now Beijing made companies unwind this structure if they sought to list at home – but rising tensions with the US have seemingly provoked some flexibility from the central government.

Tencent-backed low-cost retailer has put a $100m placeholder figure in its filing for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, more than a year after its plans first emerged.

Compass Pathways, a UK-based depression medicine developer backed by pharmaceutical group Otsuka Pharmaceuticals’ McQuade Center for Strategic Research and Development, achieved a different kind of exit as it went public in an upsized IPO worth more than $127m on Friday. The company is working on something rather unusual: a synthetic version of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, to treat mental health disorders that have proven resistant to other therapies. McQuade had backed an $80m series B round in April 2020 and its bet paid off, as shares in Compass shot up to $29 on the first day of trading.

If you were looking forward to whatever blockbuster terms Grail was going to set for its IPO when it first filed with a $100m placeholder amount earlier this month, you’ll be sorely disappointed with today’s news. However, the $8bn put down by Illumina (though when accounting for its existing stake it’s closer to $7bn) to acquire its cancer diagnostics spinoff is impressive in its own right – particularly considering that Grail raised just under $2bn, so Illumina could have saved a decent chunk of cash if it had kept the development internal – but that’s the nature of these things. WuXi AppTec, Tencent, Amazon, Alphabet, Varian Medical Systems, BMS, Celgene, Merck & Co, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Johnson & Johnson and McKesson are all among the corporates celebrating an exit.

Speaking of China: Zhonggu Logistics, a container logistics services provider backed by liner operator Zhonggu Shipping and telecommunications group SoftBank, is targeting a $218m initial public offering after pricing its shares at $3.28 a pop. It will list on the main board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, and Zhonggu Shipping will remain a majority shareholder at 63.1%, with a tiny slice (2.2%) also left for SoftBank. CICC is the lead underwriter.

The Washington State University neurological drug developer has gone public after issuing 12 million shares priced at $17 each.

Deals

News continues coming in at a rapid pace, proving that the summer lull – however much there was one, considering the flurry of IPO filings as discussed earlier – is well and truly over. If you live in the west, you’d be forgiven for thinking Tesla is the only real contender in the EV space but there are other noteworthy companies in the east. One of these is WM Motor, which has picked up $1.47bn in a series D round backed by SAIC Motor – adding to some $1.8bn in funding previously raised from investors such as Baidu, Tencent and China Minmetals. The money has been allocated to R&D, marketing, sales and branding activities.

There really is no stopping Robinhood, the US-based share trading app developer backed by Alphabet and Roc Nation: the company has now pushed its series G round to $660m thanks to a $460m extension supplied by D1 Capital Partners (which had provided the $200m initial tranche last month), a16z, Sequoia, DST, Ribbit and 9Yards. The extension has moved Robinhood’s valuation up to $11.7bn from $11.2bn a few weeks ago – that seems like a marginal increase hardly worth mentioning but in July the company was actually worth “only” $8.2bn when it closed its $600m series F. It’s now collected some $2.36bn in funding altogether.

Challenger bank Chime has become the most valuable American fintech aimed at retail consumers after raising $485m in a series F round that pushed its valuation to $14.5bn – a good chunk of change more than previous leader Robinhood, which attained an $11.2bn valuation last month. If $14.5bn seems a lot – and it is – consider this: Chime claims it has been adding hundreds of thousands of customers per month as the pandemic has made people less inclined to go into a physical bank branch. Consider this, too: the company was worth a mere $1.5bn just 18 months ago. Access Industries returned for the latest round but Chime’s early investors, which include Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, will also all be in for a phenomenal exit at this rate.

Munich Re has returned for a $250m series D round raised by online insurance platform Next Insurance, while CapitalG led the round. Next Insurance has grown to more than 100,000 customers across all 50 US states and will use the money to improve its existing offering, add more products and hire an additional 200 employees. Next has now raised $631m in total – Munich Re previously injected $250m in series C financing a year ago – and its investors also include Nationwide (the US insurer, not the UK financial institution), Markel and American Express Ventures.

Apple’s silicon in iPhones and iPads is notably because the chips manage to squeeze an astounding amount of processing power out of small real estate at low power usage. The team that led the development of these chips left last year to found Nuvia in an effort to bring their expertise to semiconductors in data centres. While its technology is still very much in development, it clearly has done enough to entice investors for a $240m series B round that featured returning backer Dell Technologies Capital.

Children’s debit card provider Greenlight is valued at $1.2bn after raising $215m in a funding from a host of investors, though none of its corporate backers participated this time.

Xingyun has picked up $200m in a series C round co-led by Taikang Insurance, Shanghai United Media Group and Highlight Capital, while GLP and C&D Group also invested.

There was a $133m series C round secured by Beyond Limits, an AI technology developer based on research at Caltech’s Nasa-aligned Jet Propulsion Lab that is notable not only because it’s repeatedly convinced BP Ventures to invest but also because it actually managed to attract BP Ventures’ Meghan Sharp as COO about a year ago (as long-time subscribers will remember). Another corporate, Group 42, joined BP for the series C round.

SoftBank’s Latin America Fund and General Atlantic have co-led a $107m series B round for Accesso Digital, a facial recognition technology developer that will use the money to scale.

Digital Garage has helped launch mobile gaming platform Playco with a $100m series A round and a valuation of more than $1bn.

Recycling electronics is big business – rare earth minerals needed to build devices such as laptops or smartphones are expensive to mine, but old gadgets too often just end up in that junk drawer we all have in our houses. This is where Wanwu Xinsheng – né Aihuishou – comes in: it runs an online and brick-and-mortar recycling service for consumers to sell their second-hand devices. The company’s now raised $100m in series E-plus financing from JD.com, its JD Logistics unit and others, to accelerate growth and seek additional partnerships internationally. The round brings the company’s overall funding to more than $1bn, and JD.com is a repeat investor.

Another nine-figure sum was revealed by Nucarf, a China-based logistics fleet refuelling management platform that has collected $100m in combined series A and A-plus capitalfrom investors including Xiamen C&D. The cash has been allocated to accelerating the development of its digital infrastructure, and it comes after multiple rounds of undisclosed size in 2017 and 2018.

Foot Locker-backed sneaker marketplace Goat Group has completed a $100m round from D1 Capital Partners, bringing its overall financing to almost $300m in five years.

University

UW mental health spinout Owl Insights secured funding to advance its product development and distribution.

Funds

The website development tool provider’s Wix Capital subsidiary will invest in early-stage startups that are developing AI, e-commerce, web design and automation technologies.

Pureos Bioventures has backed five spinouts so far from its inaugural biotech-focused fund, which has reached its final close.

Unnamed corporates have provided capital for Panlin’s $148m fund that will focus on healthcare, digital transformation and smart hardware.

Legal & General is among the limited partners for Kindred Capital’s second fund, which also attracted University of Chicago and will invest in early-stage European startups.

Alsa Ventures is targeting a $150m final close for its inaugural biotherapeutics fund, which has already backed university-linked companies.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

16 December 2019 – Petronas Launches Piva with $250m in Capital

Funds

Petronas has officially launched Piva, a growth-stage vehicle that will target developers of energy, industrial and materials applications in North America and Europe. The fund is equipped with $250m of capital and will be overseen by Petronas Corporate Venture Capital, the larger, more generalised unit that was launched by the corporate in October.

Telkom Indonesia and KB kick off $150m fund

Plexo flexes corporate connections to close first fund

Vertex closes Master Fund at $730m

UChicago helps shape $160m Pear fund

Epidarex dials up drug discovery scheme

Fundraising for SoftBank Vision Fund’s second vehicle is ongoing, but insiders have told The Telegraph it could end up closing at a size up to 30% lower than its first fund. Vision Fund is in talks with Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which contributed a joint $60bn to its first vehicle, but some public missteps, particularly in the case of WeWork, may end up giving them pause.

Exits

SoftBank Vision Fund elected to pump $9.5bn into WeWork in order to rescue the company but it’s shifting another problematic asset out completely. The fund invested $300m in petsitting platform Wag at a $650m valuation but has now agreed to sell its stake back to the company, reportedly at a loss. Wag has had some high-profile issues in the past year and the move comes after a recent resignation from its CEO and before a series of job cuts.

Rock Content draws up Scribble acquisition

Business finance automation platform Bill.com went public in a $216m initial public offering that allowed Fleetcor, Mastercard, American Express, Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, JP Morgan Chase and the Citi-owned Financial Partners Fund to exit. It’s been a successful offering too, Bill having lifted the range at the start of the week and then floating at a higher price. It had raised more than $275m in VC funding and the IPO values it at about $1.55bn.

UCommune has proven itself to be WeWork’s largest competitor in East Asia but it’s selected the US for its initial public offering. The co-working space operator, whose investors include Ant Financial, Aikang Group, Star Group and several property developers, has set a placeholder target of $100m but the final fate of the IPO may be anyone’s guess, with reports that Citigroup and Credit Suisse walked away from underwriter positions due to disagreements over valuation.

Molbase assays $70m IPO

Deals

Digital bank operator Chime has closed a $500m series E round led by tech investment firm DST Global, upping its valuation from $1.5bn to $5.8bn in just nine months. The company has raised more than $800m to date, from investors that include Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures. It will put the latest funding toward product development and staff expansion as it prepares to open an office in Chicago.

Online automotive e-commerce platform Vroom took its overall funding to $721m in a $254m series H round led by investment adviser Durable Capital Partners. The round valued Vroom, whose existing backers include car dealership owner AutoNation, at $1.5bn and the funding will support recruitment, product development and the establishment of a newly opened engineering hub.

Elsewhere in fintech, online lending platform WeLab has raised its first funding in over two years, securing $156m in a series C round featuring Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and China Construction Bank, two of five existing investors that joined undisclosed new participants in the round. WeLab filed for an IPO itself in mid-2018 but pulled it before the end of the year. It’s now preparing to launch a digital bank and is eyeing Southeast Asia for expansion.

Perfect Day is one of a number of companies exploring the plant-based food substitute space, having created a protein it claims is as tasty and nutritional as cow’s milk. It has also received $140m in series C funding at a $440m valuation, with Sinagpore’s Temasek leading the round. The company has now raised more than $200m since being founded five years ago, its earlier investors including agribusiness Continental Grain.

Genome engineering platform Inscripta has received $125m in a Paladin Capital-backed series D round that took its total funding up to about $260m. Mérieux Développement contributed to Inscripta’s last round, a $106m series C that closed in April, and the series D proceeds will go to commercialising and enhancing its Onyx Digital Genome Engineering system.

Online insurance platform Wefox Group has added $110m from investors including Samsung Catalyst Fund to a series B round that now stands at $235m. The round already included CreditEase and the latest influx of capital was secured at a $1.65bn valuation according to TechCrunch, a substantial jump from the reported $1.1bn valuation for the first tranche in March.

HomeTap is only about two years old but operates a model where users can access finance using equity in their homes. It has also just raised $100m from investors including American Family Ventures. The series B funding will support its expansion in the US, in addition to increasing headcount and work on further development of the platform.

Small molecule cancer drug developer Zentalis Pharmaceuticals has come out of stealth with $147m in funding, $85m of which was just secured in a series C round. No corporate investors were mentioned in that transaction but its investors do include Pharmaron and Alexandria Venture Investments, while Pfizer, which is collaborating with it on a phase 1/2 clinical trial that combines two drug treatments, may have gained a stake through the partnership deal.

Jasper springs to life with $35m

Paragraf amplifies series A to reach $21.3m


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

14 October 2019 – Oyo in $1.5bn Series F Round

The Big Ones

Short-term accommodation platform Oyo is reportedly in the process of raising $1.5bn in series F funding at a $10bn valuation. Existing investor SoftBank is also set to take part in the round but the big news is that Oyo co-founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal plans to put up a whopping $700m of the cash. Given that the only collateral Agarwal could likely put forward to get that kind of financing is his existing stake in Oyo, that obviously raises all kinds of questions, not least with the increased scrutiny around founder behaviour right now.

The IPO market appears to be slowing down, what with We Company and Postmates both withdrawing their initial public offerings, and immuno-oncology drug developer BioNTech – a spinout of Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz – hasn’t done brilliantly either. It went public in a $150m IPO that involved it floating at the bottom of its range while also cutting the number of shares. Despite that, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Sanofi – all development partners – will score exits through the offering.

Ginkgo Bioworks – itself an MIT spinout – has already spun out two companies, Joyn Bio and Motif Foodworks, which have raised decent sums of money, but now the custom microbe developer has formed a $350m vehicle specifically to fund other spinouts.

Deals

Chime is one of a string of digital banks that have sprung up in recent years and claims to be the fastest growing, increasing the number of accounts it oversees from 3 million in March to 5 million in September.

Zomato is locked in a battle with Swiggy for domination of India’s food delivery market, and just like Tencent-backed Swiggy, it has a major Chinese corporate providing cash. Ant Financial has invested more than $400m in Zomato and is reportedly in line to participate in a $600m round that would value it at up to $4bn.

Chinese tutoring platform VIPKid has confirmed it has raised money in a Tencent-led series E round, without confirming the size of that round. Recent media reports could give some clues on that front however, with $500m being put forward as an upper target and Tencent’s contribution placed around the $150m mark.

Lilium, a flying car developer spun out of Technical University of Munich, is also fundraising and is in talks with Tencent over a round that will reportedly be sized at $400m to $500m. Tencent contributed to Germany-based Lilium’s last round, a $90m series B, two years ago but the new funding will follow its unveiling of a working prototype of its vehicle in May.

Next Insurance has received $250m from Munich Re in the form of series C funding that will help the workplace insurance platform grow its business in the US. The round valued Next at more than $1bn and the deal increased Munich Re’s stake in the company to 27.5%.

It’s been a while since we last heard from Benlai, but the China-based grocery e-commerce has been busy expanding its service to hundreds of additional cities since its last round – a combined $117m series C and C+ from investors including Joyoung – in 2016.

SparkCognition has meanwhile collected $100m in a series C round backed by returning investor Boeing HorizonX and new investor Hearst Ventures, as well as 14 others (including Malcom Turnbull – yes, the former prime minister of Australia).

Arcellx is working on immune cell therapies to treat cancer, and has captured $85m in a series B round that included LG Technology Ventures and existing backers Novo, SR One and Takeda Ventures.

Funds

Petroleum supplier Petronas hasn’t been a significant venture capital investor yet but it appears to be making plans to change that. The corporate intends to pump up to $350m into a unit called Petronas Corporate Venture Capital that will fund companies developing tech in areas such as advanced materials, specialty chemicals and energy. It had already launched a $250m investment vehicle known as Piva in January.

Exits

GV made a hefty chunk of change by divesting part of its stake in Uber to a SoftBank-led consortium in late 2017 at a $48bn valuation, but CEO David Krane has disclosed that it may sell the rest once the post-IPO lock-up period expires next month.

Praktikertjänst-backed Aprea Therapeutics went public last week, picking up $85m in proceeds after pricing shares in the middle of the range at $15. It looks like the company may have underestimated the market, as shares shot up to $20.50 on the first day of trading and have continued to trade above the IPO price.

Vir Biotechnology is the latest company not to meet its IPO expectations, floating at the bottom of its range, but still raising $143m. SoftBank Vision Fund is the second largest shareholder of immunology therapy developer Vir, having pumped in at least $180m over two rounds.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

11 March 2019 – SoftBank Announces $5bn Latin America SoftBank Innovation Fund

The big ones

SoftBank, SoftBank, SoftBank. It feels like that’s all we’re talking about on this podcast, and that shows no sign of stopping, as the telecoms and internet group has taken the wrapper off a $5bn vehicle dubbed SoftBank Innovation Fund which will focus on Latin American deals.

After all these years, ride hailing still looks to be the area of the VC world where the big bucks are going, and Grab has boosted its series H round to $4.5bn with a $1.46bn investment by SoftBank Vision Fund.

Lyft has become the first of the ride hailing companies to file for an IPO, setting an initial target of $100m. Rakuten is the largest investor in Lyft, valued at some $15bn last year, while Alphabet and GM also own decent-sized stakes, but the greatest attention may be paid to its finances.

Beam Therapeutics, a genetic medicine developer spun out of Harvard University, has followed up an $87m series A round in mid-2018 with a $135m series B featuring GV that will go to recruitment, technology development and the expansion of its base editing programs.

Deals

Go-Jek is meanwhile said to be valued at about $9.5bn, and has raised $100m from conglomerate Astra International as part of a round it intends to close at around $3bn.

Chinese smart electric vehicle producer WM Motor has raised $446m in a series C round led by existing investor Baidu, with which WM is also partnering in order to further develop its AI technology in a bid to bring self-driving vehicles to market in the next three years.

Vision Fund, which really is having an insanely busy month even by its own high standards, has also invested $350m to lead a $395m series F round for last-mile logistics provider Delhivery.

Mobile bank Chime has also reached unicorn status, tripling its valuation to $1.5bn with a $200m series D round led by DST Global.

Digital insurance startup Friday has received $128m in funding on, suitably enough, the Friday before last, with the majority of the cash coming from insurance holding company Baloise Group, which founded the company at the start of 2017 and which remains its majority shareholder.

Funds

SoftBank Vision Fund has been the biggest growth-stage investor of the past two years and if anything its activity is ramping up, the unit having made nine or 10-digit investments in Nuro, Chehaoduo, Flexport, DoorDash and Clutter in the past month.

Healthcare investment firm Gilde Healthcare has had a long-term partnership with Philips, which has backed several of its funds, while Johnson & Johnson has also been a corporate LP for the firm.

Contrary Capital, a university-focused venture firm with connections to dozens of US institutions, aims to raise $35m for its second vehicle from pooled investment funds, according to a regulatory filing published Wednesday.

Exits

Biogen has offered to pay $25.50 in cash per share to pay a total of approximately $800m for Nightstar Therapeutics, a spinout of University of Oxford that went public back in 2017.

Social media company YY owned almost 32% of livestreaming platform developer Bigo after leading its $272m series D round last June, and now it’s paid $1.45bn to complete the acquisition by purchasing the remainder of its shares.

Online classifieds operator 58 has revealed it sold $713m of its shares in automotive e-commerce platform Chehaoduo to an investor likely to be SoftBank Vision Fund, which invested $1.5bn in Chehaoduo last week.

China-based Ruhnn is three years old and pursuing a very ‘now’ business model, operating a network of social media influencers that can be hired for promotions or marketing, and has filed to raise up to $200m in an IPO in the US.

Data management platform developer DataStax has hired underwriters to work on its own IPO, according to Reuters, and is seeking a $1bn valuation.

Precision BioSciences, a US-based genomic medicine spinout of Duke University, has filed to raise up to $100m in an initial public offering.


“Funky Chunk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0